Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Fairy-tales usually begin with ‘Once Upon a Time’. What follows is usually a charming story filled with nice people and situations. Although having a title with the phrase, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is anything but. A look at a golden era in Tinsletown with a seedy underbelly that only director Quentin Tarantino can provide. There are more sinners than saints in his story with a typical fairy-tale ending not assured.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a popular TV actor wanting to transition to films. Trawling through the rough and tumble of agents and auditions, he is joined by best friend Cliff (Brad Pitt). They meet aspiring actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and an assortment of hopeful thespians. With death, mayhem and personal trauma never far away, Dalton’s life becomes as outlandish as any huge Hollywood pot-boiler.

Despite the cast’s solid performances, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is the least of Tarantino’s output. Self-indulgent, meandering and often dull, his latest is a study in excess, tastelessness and insensitivity. This is especially true with the inclusion of tragic real-life celebrity Sharon Tate. Tarantino’s use of her persona offers little to the script and only raises questions about his dubious writing abilities.

Much better is the look and music of the era. These elements successfully conjure the atmosphere of the classic Hollywood system and attitudes. Between the tedium, there are bright sparks of Tarantino’s trademark style. He’s more skilled at creating his own characters than having to resort to using real people in his narrative for shock value. His script is very dis-jointed with an episodic feel rather than flowing as one complete piece.

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ isn’t worth the huge run-time or craftmanship of all concerned. It’s a mostly feeble slog through well-worn Hollywood clichés and rambling scenes. Easily the worst movie of Tarantino’s career, it’s a very disappointing effort from a film-maker who has done much better.

Rating out of 10: 5

Hobbs & Shaw

The ‘Fast and the Furious’ film franchise has been an enormous success. Since 2001, the series has grown more eager to provide over the top spectacle. After eight movies, the sight of fast cars doing all manner of feats has yet to fall out of favour. Evidence of this audience appreciation is seen in ‘Hobbs & Shaw’. The first spin-off from the series, it’s no less outrageous with muscle bound he-men and women causing calamity.

Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a federal agent reluctantly working with assassin turned mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). They are forced to work together due to Deckard’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) being an MI6 agent. On the trail of evil criminal mastermind Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), the trio need to stop his plans for world terror. With guns, pecs and cars at the ready, their presence ensures chaos lands in city streets.

Any movie featuring Johnson and Statham won’t ever be considered high art. Not they would care as ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ is the same as their other outings. Dumb, totally over the top with plot holes to drive a tank through. That’s part of the macho charm of these films with the performances making way for amazing stunts and visceral action.

David Leitch directs ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ with an appropriately light touch relying on the leads’ chemistry. Their banter is what makes ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ consistently engaging viewing. These moments enable the scenes between the spectacular action to fly. There’s little time to breathe with the cast, including the always strong Idris Elba), clearly enjoying spouting the often ridiculous dialogue.

You know exactly what you’ll get with ‘Hobbs & Shaw’. Like a frosty cake that might be bad for you, it’s still edible viewing regardless. A ‘guilty pleasure’ film of the highest order, it shows the ‘Fast and the Furious’ films show no signs of moving into cinema’s slow lane.

Rating out of 10: 6